RIPLEY – If defense wins championships, the Ripley Tigers may be well on their way to a special season.
The Ripley defense allowed just 122 yards of total offense to the Pontotoc Warriors on Friday night, pushed its streak of scoreless quarters to eight and pitched a 31-0 shutout. The Tigers (11-1), playing in the Class 4A playoffs for the first time, advanced to the second round for the second year in a row.
“It starts up front with the D-line,” said co-defensive coordinator Buck Bucannan. “They’ve really come together, they’re playing as a team and our defensive line is playing lights out. We were able to come off the ball and stop the run early and get some pressure with our rovers coming off the edge late.”
They allowed 54 yards in the first half, including 30 rushing yards. In the second half, they forced two turnovers, including a 45-yard interception return by CB Santerio Prather and James Walter became the single-season sack leader with his 13th on the year.
“Everybody is doing their jobs. The defensive line is filing their gaps, the linebackers are reading and the secondary is covering, “ said defensive end Tristian Hopkins, who thinks their undersized look gives room for opponents to underestimate them. “Everybody tells us we’re undersized, until we hit them in the mouth.”
As for the Ripley offense, it got going in the second quarter with a pair of Christian Johnson touchdowns runs for a 13-0 halftime advantage.
After Ripley recovered an onsides kick to start the second half, quarterback Dalton James tossed a 25-yard TD pass to John Austin Moore, and a 12-yard TD pass to Isaiah Howard.
James, who completed nine passes for 156 yards, added a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth. Johnson led with 102 yards on the ground. Sedabris Boyd had three catches for a game-high 83 yards.
Pontotoc QB Will Ard went 10-of-21 for 108 yards.
“Biggest thing was that onside kick and then we had a turnover when we had a chance to score so we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Pontotoc coach Scott Brown.